Chungmuro/Film News
Gwanghae, The Man Who Became King climbs box office charts
by | October 29, 2012 | 40 Comments

It’s just a good year for movies, apparently. We’ve got another chart-climber on our hands: prince-and-pauper historical drama Gwanghae, The Man Who Became King (also going by Masquerade) is nearing the 11-million ticket mark in its seven-week run. Between this, The Thieves, and Gone With the Wind, 2012 is definitely the year of the domestic blockbuster.

The film by director Choo Chang-min stars Lee Byung-heon in a double role as King Gwanghae, who became king of Joseon in 1608, and a commoner who happens to be a dead ringer for the king. In the face of constant threats to his life, the increasingly paranoid Gwanghae entrusts the politician and scholar Heo Kyun (Ryu Seung-ryong) to find him a double, and suddenly the peasant finds himself hauled off to the palace.

He’s only there to play king for a day, but when the real Gwanghae gets poisoned and falls into a coma, the copycat has to continue the masquerade. Heo Kyun then has to teach him everything from mannerisms to speech to the inner workings of state politics, which sounds equal parts Face/Off and Pretty Woman — I’m-gonna-steal-your-life-with-your-face creepy, but with a fun makeover montage. Han Hyo-joo plays the queen who always felt distant from Gwanghae, but starts to fall for his warmer, more charismatic double.

The film is getting great reviews for Lee Byung-heon’s performance, which must be working to get people in the theater. The weekend figures put the film at 10,944,759 tickets sold, and it’s hanging out in seventh place on the all-time domestic box office chart, just above Speed Scandal and D-War. The rate of growth isn’t as fast as The Thieves, but it is faster than the reigning third-place film The King and the Clown; perhaps it’ll be a race between kings for the bronze.

Gwanghae, The Man Who Became King is in theaters in Korea and a few U.S. cities.

Via Star News


40 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. Monona

    Does anyone know what’s written on each character poster? Which are pretty great actually – so emotive.

    • 1.1 adette

      rough translations, in order:

      “I want to be king”
      Prince Gwang-hae 8 years* disappeared from history / also* a King
      *The movie is set in 1616, 8 years after he started to rule. I’m guessing thats what this is for… wasn’t sure how to translate it lols. “8th year” maybe? idkkk.
      *another problem i had with translation… cos the word used can be translated as again/once more/also…. so take that as you will. hehe c:

      “Every night I pray. I ask not to be born as the lady of the palace in my next life…”
      the woman who loved two kings / Joong-jeon

      “If your dream is to be a real/genuine king, I will make you one”
      King Maker / Heo-kyun

      • 1.1.1 adette

        oops, didnt even notice someone else had already translated it :p

  2. rubie

    Thanks so much for highlighting the movie, really appreciate the cool update. Thought it’ll be JB writing about Gwanghae but it’s all good and awesome. It’s never tiring reading and sharing this. ^^ Merci!

    • 2.1 Rin

      lol the storyline is sooo The Prizoner Of Zenda. at first i thought it was more Prince and Pauper but the Han Hyo Joo’s part totally leans more to TPZ. i wonder do they gey any flack for the similar storyline??

      *sorry for riding your comment rubie. hehe*

      • 2.1.1 sharu

        I was thinking of just the same thing … so so Prisoner of Zenda..

  3. enkhee

    it’s playing here in DC area. I should go watch it in theater.

    • 3.1 girlatsea

      Wow, really? Where?

  4. ida

    I want to become king – first poster
    I wished every night that in my next life that I would not be born as a woman of the court – second
    If your dream is of a true king, I will make that dream come true -third

    These are really literal translations, and I’m not very good at expressing things in the same essence.
    So if anyone can give more refined translations, I think it’d be good..
    Otherwise, hope this helps!

    • 4.1 Monona

      Aw thanks! That helps a lot ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. ida

    No problem! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Shaz81

    This is showing at the London Korean Film Festival where Lee Byung-heon was or has made an appearance sadly I missed out on tickets ๐Ÿ™ .

  7. narae

    am i the only one who did a double take? neither of those posters look like lee byeong heon to me… or han hyo joo… perhaps it’s just me….

    • 7.1 Kat

      I hear Han Hyo Joo declined to put on makeup for this movie. Something like queens back in the day didn’t have makeup. And I believe it too because her face was extremely washed out in the movie (but still very beautiful).

  8. rainbow

    yay for han hyo joo ๐Ÿ˜€

  9. Kiara

    Its nice to live in a city with the first Korean mayor in the US. We have a big Korean community here and I wasn’t surprise to see “Gwanghae” showing at our local theatre, sadly for me I wasn’t able to go see it.
    I’m happy that its a success but I’ll be sad if it beats “The King and The Clown”. It was my first Korean movie and it has a lot of my first favorites. Lee Jun Ki and Kam Wu-seong (actors), Lee Jun-ik (director), faovrite OST ever, favorite writer, art director etc etc.

    • 9.1 nozomi05

      Me too… I am happy with the success that the film is getting but I don’t want it to beat “The King and The Clown”.

      That movie is one of my favorite K-movies of all time. I still re-watch it several times a year and still find it riveting.

      • 9.1.1 Kiara

        It may be #3 in ticket sales but I bet it made more money than “The Host” and” The Thieves” because of its low budget of 4billion won. Ticket sales is not always a measure of success. Most Indie movies with low budgets make more profit than the huge blockbuster movies with big budgets.

  10. 10 canxi

    Oh, I heard this movie is pretty comedic despite the very serious looking advertising. I really want to see it (:

  11. 11 angryparsnip

    Sounds like the movie Dave too.

    cheers, parsnip

    • 11.1 Sabah

      Hehe, I said posted that too. Yeah it does sound a lot like that film which wasn’t too bad actually, mainly because of Kevin Kline.

      I think the story is successful because it’s kind of a wish fulfilment. Most people feel as though the average person, ‘commoner’ could do a better job of running their country than a ruler, politician. It’s about removing that divide between them, because really how are the top 1% of a country going to understand and then govern the other 99% of the country in a fair and just way when their lives are just so very different? Even though ‘Dave’ was routine Hollywood stuff, I loved the manner it was presented, and some points were sharp. I would love to see it from the point of view of a Korean historical setting because though most things are universal, personal differences make for interesting insights.

  12. 12 birdscout

    It’s currently playing at The Cineplex at Yonge & Sheppard in Toronto.

  13. 13 Nokcha

    I’ve had a chance to see this and I would recommend it. It’s nice to see LBH in a role where he’s not a badass… reminds me of some of his other roles.

    The film itself has a nice mixture of drama and comedy.

  14. 14 Sabah

    Is it me or does the story sound a lot like the Kevin Kline film Dave?

    I really enjoyed that movie, mainly because of Kevin Kline but I would be intrigued to see how Lee Byung heon handled it here. Also it would be interesting to see how the story is set, whether they would use humour or something more serious, or sinister or even profound.


  15. 15 aX

    Why is it that Han Hyo Joo in this one? (sigh) Oh well. Maybe I’ll watch it anyway.

  16. 16 kaka

    Han Hyojoo!! Please comeback with a drama that is not sageuk!!

  17. 17 midnight

    The synopsis sounds very similar to the book Double Star by Robert Heinlein, which is great because I love that book to pieces!!

  18. 18 kumi

    Wow, the dragon hairpin is gorgeous.

    • 18.1 diorama

      I know, right? Half the reason I watch saguek is for the pretty costumes and jewelry…*is shallow*

  19. 19 houstontwin

    My sister saw this movie at a Korean movie theater in New Jersey. She really loved it!

  20. 20 exquisitemelody

    wahhh! I’d love to see this. Love Han Hyo Joo ๐Ÿ˜€ Haha, she seems to be made for historical dramas (what can I say…I loved Dong Yi).

    Wish I knew Korean…unless I’ll get lucky and this’ll get translated?

  21. 21 Songie

    I saw it the opening weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it– except i thought HHJ’s role (the queen) was bleh. I went in thinking it would be serious all the way through, but was joyously surprised with all the comedy. It’s a very moving script. LBH and RSR have great chemistry!

  22. 22 bear99

    Seeing HHJ picture seems like I’m looking at Skin Care product poster *lol …

  23. 23 rubie

    Congratulations to ‘Gwanghae, The Man Who Became King’ at the 49th Grand Bell Awards tonight! Well-deserved!

  24. 24 topper

    Han Hyo Joo really knows how to choose projects.

    • 24.1 red

      I Know right all her dramas after Spring waltz have be hits and now all her movies

  25. 25 epyc

    Well, this movie just swept off the best film, director and award (for LBH) in tonight’s Daejong Film Award ceremony.

    • 25.1 epyc

      Well, this movie just swept off the best film, director and actor (for LBH) in tonightโ€™s Daejong Film Award ceremony.

  26. 26 trebuchette

    Watched this last night. This movie is definitely on my must-watch Korean movies list. Really amazing!

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